Knitting by Blind Faith

Knit Night at the LYS
Wednesday, April 30, 2008, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Knitting,Life

We had a special treat last night. Knit night was held at our lys, which will be closing soon. *sniff* *sniff* Chosen, Judah, and Abigail were there, along with The Healing Teacher and 2 Circs Girl. (2 Circs Girl was the resident store employee.) The comraderie was awesome. There’s nothing like knitting with your friends when you’re surrounded by all that yarn.

Some of the girls came away with new yarn in hand. I still haven’t quite gotten over my stash phobia, so I refrained from making any new purchases. (I can enjoy being surrounded by yarn without taking any of it home.) I worked on my nephew’s baby blanket instead.

Diagonal Baby Blanket in Progress

I’m just about to the point of decreasing, and I’m hoping to have the blanket finished before he makes his entrance into the world.

The evening concluded with RAM taking a picture of all of us together for Chosen. What a touching way to end a special evening!

The Dance
Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 12:00 am
Filed under: Life,Reflections,Special Moments

Six months ago today, Joy came into my life. I had been told on the morning that I got her that I would probably be getting a female lab. I remember waiting anxiously in my dorm room after lunch, along with every other student, watching the seconds tick by slowly. At 2:20 P.M., there was a knock on my door. My instructor was there with Joy on a leash. I wasn’t aloud to greet her until we walked down to the lounge, but she was excited the whole way. I learned her name on the walk to the lounge, and was greeted with kisses as I put on her leash. I heeled her back to my room, where we got to know each other.

It wasn’t long before she was bored with me and started whining for her trainer and the kennel. It was a warm day, and I had the windows open, so she could hear the dogs barking in the kennels. She was two and half inches taller than my first dog, and a lot more rambunctious. My mouth fell open when she actually put her paws up on the window sill and stared out the window. When I sat in the chair in front of the window (my back was to the window), she would put her front paws up on my shoulders and stare out the window. And when I would sit on the bed, she would try to climb up on the bed past me.

I didn’t figure out why she wanted on the bed until my instructor (also her trainer) came for our first walk. It turned out, he had laid her harness on the bed, and she was ready to do her job (she just didn’t know she would be guiding me instead of him).

Though I was an experienced dog guide user, I did not expect that walking with Joy would feel the way it did. I expected a different pace and pull, maybe, but in truth, it felt like the first time all over again. We had to learn to read each other’s movements and body language. I was not what she was used to, and she was not what I was used to.

But we quickly started to become a team as we walked quiet residential streets and progressed to busier intersections, finally working our way up to train platforms that were 30 feet off the ground with no railings and streets without sidewalks. Our training culminated in traveling the busy streets and subways of New York City. As we moved in and out of the crowds, Joy seeming to say, “Excuse me! Blind lady coming through!”, I thought back to that first walk and realized that we had begun our dance.

We have been home for just over five months, and each day is a new adventure. Joy’s take-a-bite-out-of-life attitude, coupled with her affection and sensitivity, are a true gift from God. God has used her to turn the pain of the loss of my first dog into joy, that in our partnership, He may be glorified.

The Weekend
Monday, April 28, 2008, 12:14 pm
Filed under: Knitting,Life

Our friend J. came over on Friday with her German shepherd guide to say hello. Her guide is undoubtedly one of the gentlest shepherds I have ever met. Even Peace, a little chihuahua, antagonized her, and she just took it all in stride. The three girls had a blast together, and it was great for me to catch up with an old friend I don’t get to see too often.

We took J. home and were invited to have dinner with her and her husband, T. J. prepared a scrumptious penne with marinara, accompanied by hot sausages that were pan seared, then baked to retain their moisture. We loved it so much that I made a spaghetti version for RAM and me last night.

The walk-a-thon had an awesome turn-out on Satuday. RAM and I were both net control operators, and another amateur radio operator logged for us. She is a knitter and crocheter, so she understood when I whipped out my needles and continued to knit on the baby blanket. I was grateful for her help. I could not have logged and knit at the same time!

After the walk, I went over to S.’s house to teach her how to knit. Because the week slipped away from me, I did not have time to prepare step-by-step instructions for her in Braille. (Shame on me!) Consequently, we only worked on the slip knot and casting on. Since our local public transportation is very limited, we don’t see each other very often. When she begins to knit, she will probably be frogging a lot, and will need to be comfortable with casting on. And since the long tail cast-on is harder than knitting, I wanted her to have this in her muscle memory before moving on. She agreed with this approach.

To teach her, I first knit a small swatch using her needles and yarn, so she would have an example of knitting to look at. One of the biggest challenges when you are visually impaired or blind and learning to knit on your own is that you have no feedback to see if you are interpreting instructions correctly or where you can improve your knitting. We can’t look at pictures on the internet or in books, so we must rely on the feedback of other knitters (if we are fortunate enough to know other knitters). If we are not fortunate to know other knitters, or our knitting friends/family members are far away, then a nonknitting friend or spouse can look at pictures and tell us if we are on the right track. But having a swatch to refer back to is the best way to go, because you can constantly reinforce the picture of your ultimate goal in your mind as you are practicing.

To teach the slip knot and the long tail cast-on, I first did them myself and described my movements, so that she would start to get a picture in her head. I then let her feel my hands and the needle tip and yarn as I worked. Then, I let her try on her own. As she started to get the hang of it, I stood behind her and put my hands over the top of hers to guide them, so that she could start to feel the fluidity of the motions and to understand how to move her hands in tandem as she worked. When necessary, I would hold the needle and/or yarn in place in various positions so that she could feel them and really understand what she was doing, step by step.

By the time I left, her tension had relaxed, she wasn’t getting any extra wraps of yarn around her needle, and her stitches were nearly uniform. Go, S.! I recommended that she take breaks often, and when she put the needle down, to always leave stitches on it, so that she would have a reminder of what they should look like the next time she picked up the needle. I told her that when she can read a book or watch TV and cast on without thinking about it, we’ll move on to the knit stitch. The smile on her face at the end of the lesson was worth a billion dollars and was the highlight of my weekend!

RAM cleaned the house and marinated the steaks for me while I was with S. (Isn’t he a sweetheart???) When we left S.’s house, we went grocery shopping. After dinner, we finally did it. After toying with the idea for years, we finally bought a Sleep Number bed. Our bed has needed to be replaced for a while. I am so excited, and can’t wait for it to arrive.

Yesterday, we got to relax. I talked to my dad on the phone for a while, and RAM and I spent time in the afternoon with I. and her daughter at the pool. I knit a little more on the baby blanket and will post pictures on Wednesday.